Writer and my former workshop-mate Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevitch has a suggestion for critique groups–let someone know if their story is boring.
Okay, that might sound harsh. But “boring” is a major reason people outside of your workshop will set aside your story. I’m guilty of not pushing my characters and plot enough, too, and I always appreciate it when my critiquers tell me that things need to move faster or more needs to be at stake. Usually when I revise with that in mind, the story is more engaging and doesn’t put the reader to sleep.
Still, it can be hard to hear that your story isn’t compelling. To protect fellow writers’ feelings, Alexandria offers this idea for workshop notes:
“So how about this: a small circle in the margin of the page, to signal a change in the reader’s attention level at a given point. The circle could be filled in all the way for moments when the reader was rapt, put to half-mast for moments when the story was inching along well enough but the reader was fighting the impulse to check how many pages remained, and left empty for the moment the reader actually did put the story down, not to be picked up again until, say, the night before workshop.”
I really like this idea. A series of circles feels less than a jab than it does a way to track your story’s momentum. Plus, it’s so helpful to see how a reader actually interacts with the story. You may think that readers will be stunned by a particular line of dialogue or scene, but they might not get enough emotional resonance for the scene to have the effect you want.
Make sure to click through for Alexandria’s whole post.